Messi 2012: The Season That Shook Football

Messi 2012-Unstoppable
Messi 2012-Unstoppable

Matt Biggin
Matt Biggin

published 15:22, 04 April 2023

Ask any football fan who is the greatest player of all time and most are bound to give one of two answers: Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. Indeed, the battle between these two heavyweights of the game has delighted modern football audiences for close to two decades now.

And whilst both have had remarkable careers, and stand-out seasons, there is one season that stands above the others – Messi’s 2011-12 season for FC Barcelona.

The legendary season saw the diminutive Argentinian rack up a record-breaking goal scoring season. Not only did he finish the season as the top goalscorer in the league, and in Europe, he also became Barcelona’s all-time top goalscorer at the age of just 24.

This was the season that Messi enshrined himself in sporting legend, and really became a global superstar. So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the season in detail.

Unprecedented Goal-Scoring Efficiency (Messi 2012 goals per minute)

Messi registered a staggering 50 strikes in 37 La Liga games, and 73 goals in just 60 games across all competitions in the 2011-12 season.

Over the calendar year in 2012, Messi averaged over 1.3 goals per game, which works out to an average of approximately one goal every 66 minutes, a staggering feat that will probably never be matched in the top leagues of European football.

You don’t get to be in the conversation as the world’s greatest player without putting up staggering numbers on a regular basis. But, this was a season that, even by Messi’s sky high standards, sits alone as a truly remarkable feat of skill, ability, marksmanship, and raw natural talent.

It placed the Argie legend among the best strikers the world has ever seen, and made him a true global superstar.

Messi 2012 Goal Celebration

Messi 2012 version with another goal celebration(source: Imago)

Average Minutes per Goal in 2012

At an average of 66 minutes per goal in 2012, Messi was electrifying, tearing up La Liga and the Champions League, in a season that we will likely never see repeated in the modern game.

For most players, those mere mortals we watch week in and week out, an average of a goal every two games is considered to be good. This puts into perspective just how stunning a season Messi had in 2012.

Incredibly, despite scooping 4 trophies with Barcelona over the course of the season, the Catalonian giants missed out on both the league title to Real Madrid, and were eliminated in the semi final of the Champions League to Chelsea.

Had they captured every available honour, this would surely have gone down as the greatest single season by any club or player in the history of the game.

Comparing Messi’s 2012 Efficiency to Other Seasons (Messi top three seasons)

When ranking Messi’s top three seasons, of course the 2011/12 season has to rank top of the list of personal achievements. However, it tells us so much about the man, and the player, that there are a wealth of options to choose from when ranking Messi’s standout seasons.

Far from being the only impressive season the Argentinian superstar has notched up in his career, the 2011/12 season stands alone as the benchmark against which all others are measured.

Without further ado, let’s dive in and take a look at the diminutive wizard’s three best goal scoring seasons of his illustrious career to date.

#1. 2011/12

Only one option was ever going to make the top spot, and it’s the one we’ve dedicated this whole article to. Messi’s 2011/12 season with FC Barcelona is jaw-dropping in so many ways. It wasn’t just the volume of goals and goal contributions, but the fact he managed it in one of the (if not the) top rated leagues in Europe, and the world.

In addition to bagging 73 goals in all (club) competitions, Messi also broke Gerd Muller’s record for the most goals in a calendar year, as well as registering a stunning 32 club assists, according to Transfermarkt. This was the season in which he established himself as Barcelona’s all-time top goalscorer, at the age of just 24!

#2. 2008/09

Number 2 on our list has got to be the mind-blowing 2008/09 season, where, spearheading the attack of arguably the sport’s greatest ever team, Messi notched up 38 goals and 19 assists in 51 games, as Pep Guardiola’s relentless Barca side won La Liga, the Champions League, and the Copa Del Rey.

Outside of club football, the talismanic forward also claimed the rare accolade of Olympic gold with the Argentina National Team at the London 2012 Olympic Games. In terms of personal honours, he was also awarded the La Liga Player of the Year Award, as well as the Champions League Golden Boot for top goalscorer.

#3. 2018/19

The 2018/19 season was Messi’s fifteenth as a senior Barcelona player, and the then 31-year-old showed no signs of letting up on the road to shattering more records and continuing to post the most impressive goalscoring numbers.

This season saw the Argentine lift his 10th La Liga title and finish with 51 goals and 22 assists in 50 games, including 12 Champions League goals, winning the competition’s Golden Boot again.

This was also the campaign he scored his 400th La Liga goal, and became captain of the side. This was a Barcelona side in transition, but fuelled by Messi’s captaincy, and the stewardship of Ernesto Valverde, the Catalan giants won their eighth La Liga title in 11 seasons, and, at the time of writing, the most recent they would win.

The Ultimate Showdown: Messi vs. Ronaldo in 2012 (Messi vs Ronaldo 2012)

Messi vs Ronaldo

Messi vs Ronaldo (source: Imago)

As perhaps the two most recognisable names in football, Messi and Ronaldo both have huge fan bases globally. According to Statista, Messi was more popular than Ronaldo last year, but this is a pendulum that has been swinging one way and then the other for years.

Though they never developed one of the great Premier League rivalries as many hoped they would, the two icons did develop perhaps the best individual rivalry Spanish football has ever seen.

When Ronaldo signed for Barca’s great rivals Real Madrid back in 2009, the two men were finally pitted together in the same league for the first time. So not only were Barca and Real the two juggernaut teams dominating La Liga, they also boasted the world’s two greatest players.

The debate about which player is better, Messi or Ronaldo has raged for over a decade now, with each man having been declared the greatest of all time at some point. And there really is not much to separate them in terms of footballing achievements and sporting excellence.

Whilst Ronaldo is believed to be among the fastest footballers ever, Messi excels at dribbling and trickery. The merits of each have been argued ad nauseam, but, we would like to pose an argument that Messi, statistically, reigns supreme, thanks largely to this stand-out season.

So, without further ado, let’s examine the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo head-to-head for the 2011-12 season:

Head-to-Head Statistical Comparison

Despite Ronaldo guiding Real Madrid to the La Liga title by 9 points that season, Barcelona won four trophies – the Supercopa de España, Copa Del Rey, UEFA Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup.

While both players had impressive individual statistics, Messi’s impact on his team’s success was arguably greater than Ronaldo’s if we go by the number of trophies won.

But it could also be argued that the trophy captured by Ronaldo holds greater status and respect than the ones Messi won. Overall, this is one for the purists to decide!

Though neither man perhaps would rank in the top 5 or 10 best strikers in the world in 2022 or 2023, there is no doubting they’ve left a legacy that will be difficult to match.

Records and Milestones: Messi’s 2012 Achievements (Messi 2012 records)

Messi broke several records during the 2012 season, both individually and with his team. He scored an incredible 73 goals in all competitions, surpassing Gerd Muller’s record of 67 goals in a calendar year, making him the top single-season scorer in the history of European club football. He also won the FIFA Ballon d’Or award for the fourth time in a row.

Messi Ballon d'or winner of 2012

Messi Ballon d’or winner of 2012 (source: Imago)

Individual Records Broken

Messi’s 73 goals in 2012 broke several individual records. He became the first player to score five goals in a single Champions League match and the first player to score two hat-tricks in a single Champions League season.

He also broke the record for the most goals in a single European club season, surpassing the previous record of 67 goals set by Muller. At the end of the year, Messi had registered an unprecedented 91 strikes for both club and country, although FIFA controversially did not acknowledge this record.

Team and National Team Accomplishments

Messi’s individual achievements were not the only accomplishments during the 2012 season. Barcelona won the Supercopa de España, Copa Del Rey, UEFA Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup, finishing runners-up in La Liga, and making a Champions League semi final.

Messi was instrumental in these victories, scoring crucial goals and providing assists throughout the season.

He also helped the Argentine national team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, upping his scoring rates for his nation. This was also the year Messi scored one of the greatest goals of his career, in a friendly match against Brazil, picking up the ball in the 84th minute in the right channel, conning Marcelo, and curling a fizzing strike into the top corner for his hattrick, and a 4-3 win.

Beyond the Numbers: Unusual Stats from Messi’s 2012 Season

In addition to his incredible goal-scoring and assist statistics, Messi’s 2012 season also featured some unusual achievements, as well as patterns to his play and his goal scoring exploits that are interesting to look at.

This is a far more developed and nuanced player than many people realise, and, under the reign of Pep Guardiola, Messi really did explode onto the scene as the complete footballer. Here are some of the stats we can look at beyond his simple prolific goal scoring nature.

Unique Achievements and Trivia

One unique achievement was that Messi scored against every team he faced in La Liga that season, becoming the first player in history to do so. He also scored at least one goal in 17 consecutive La Liga matches, another record. There have been great players to grace La Liga over the years, from Gary Lineker to Luis Suarez to Robert Lewandowski, but not even they have scored in 17 consecutive league matches.

Patterns in Messi’s Goal-Scoring

Another interesting pattern in Messi’s goal-scoring was that the majority of his goals came from inside the penalty area. In fact, 78 of his 91 goals in 2012 came from inside the box, which included a whopping 14 penalties converted that season alone. This highlights Messi’s ability to get into dangerous positions and finish with precision.

What’s more, according to data compiled by Bleacher Report, Messi opened the scoring in 21 of the 47 games in which he scored, whilst 59% of his goals were scored after half time; he also scored exactly twice in 22 games.

Master of Chance Creation and Scoring Zones

Messi is not just a prolific goal-scorer but also a master of chance creation. In 2012, he created 174 chances for his teammates, demonstrating his ability to create opportunities for others. It is important for players on successful teams to be multi-dimensional, and Messi’s chance creation and assists in 2011/12 cemented his status as one of the best playmaking midfielders in the world ever.

Messi’s Preferred Areas on the Pitch

Messi’s preferred areas on the pitch were on the right-hand side, just outside the box. From this position, he could cut inside onto his left foot and create space for shots or passes. But, as stats show, we know he excelled best in the penalty area, and this was where the majority of his 2011/12 strikes were scored. Of course, knowing what he was going to do, and being able to stop him doing it was another matter for defenders!

Techniques and Tactics for Chance Creation

Messi’s chance creation was aided by his exceptional dribbling ability and vision. He would often pull defenders towards him, out of position, thereby creating space for his teammates to exploit. He also had excellent passing accuracy, with a success rate of 85.3% in the 2012 season. In fact, this was an all-round excellent season for Messi in terms of passing and chance creation.

The 2011/12 season saw him attempt 2.0 through balls per game, more than in any other season. He also had the highest xA, the most passes into the box, and the most passes in the final third than any other season of the Guardiola era.

In terms of tactics, Barcelona’s style of play under Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova was built around possession-based football, with a focus on intricate passing and movement. Messi was a key part of this system, with his ability to create chances and score goals making him a valuable asset to the team.


Lionel Messi’s 2011-12 season was a truly remarkable achievement, with records broken and milestones reached. He demonstrated his skill as a goal-scorer, chance creator, and team player, contributing to his team’s success across multiple competitions. His ability to create space, dribble past defenders, and make intelligent passes were also critical to his success, and made him the most feared finisher in world football.

Overall, Messi’s 2012 season was a testament to his skill and talent, and his reputation as the greatest ever footballer; it will also be remembered as perhaps the greatest individual season in football history. And whilst Messi will, regrettably, never go down as one of the greatest Premier League players of all time, there is surely no doubt he will be viewed as Spanish football’s greatest ever player.

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